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Lead, follow or get out of the way!

Optimize Blog - December 19, 2011 - 0 comments

On the tenth anniversary of the launch of Google, the company has been awarded a US patent for the ‘self driving car’.  The intellectual property rights relate to a method to switch a vehicle from a human-controlled mode into the state where it takes charge of the wheel.  It explains how the car would know when to take control, where it is located and which direction to drive in.
The application for Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode was applied for in May, but had been hidden from public view until this week.  Patent experts note that Google’s patent will not prevent others developing rival self-drive vehicles.
“This patent, which is effective in the US only, would only be enforceable to prevent other companies from using the same specific method and not to prevent other companies also providing autonomous vehicles in general,” said Andrew Alton, a patent attorney at Urquhart-Dykes & Lord.
Apparently Google has been testing a fleet of driverless cars for several years.  The test cars have travelled along Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and elsewhere. Two humans were on board at the time – one to oversee the driving and intervene if necessary, the other to monitor the equipment from the passenger seat.
On hearing this, we here at Zeitgeist got to thinking about the ‘self driving organization’ – a Nirvana state where everyone understands where to focus and leadership to drive the organization becomes just an outdated business practice.  Then we remembered that unlike a technical object with no feelings, conscience and will, human beings are significantly complex beings that require leadership to maximize their potential.
While the concept of organizational self-governance has been studied for years, perhaps the Brazilian firm Semco SA is the only organization to have successfully managed industrial democracy with any degree of success.  Ricardo Semlar’s organization has been visited by many major companies and yet the move to copy the model has been non-existent despite the growth and financial rewards achieved by Semco through their model.
To this end then, it seems like we are destined to continue down the investment in leadership path as we deal with complex adaptive systems more commonly labeled as humans.  The move away from command and control to more of a self governing culture is certainly more appropriate for the latest generation of employees but for us at least, leadership and good governance is here to stay.
Experts say driverless cars could become a commercial prospect sooner than most people believe.  For leaderless organizations the prognosis is not so good…

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